World Socialist Website says Oppose Fracking at Barton Moss UK

Fracking Law Loophole ... They Will Frack Under Your Homes ... Watch Out For The Queens Speech In May

Fracking Law Loophole … They Will Frack Under Your Homes … Watch Out For The Queens Speech In May

By SEP candidate Robert Skelton
24 April 2014

Over the last few months, protesters at Barton Moss in Salford, North West England, have been opposed by the full force of the state, while peacefully opposing shale gas test drillings operations being carried out by the IGas corporation.

Barton Moss has been chosen as one of many sites in the UK for a private corporation to carry out hydraulic fracturing. In recent years, this new oil and natural gas extraction technique, high-volume hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as “fracking,” has been employed extensively in a number of regions of the United States.

As with the Obama administration, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat government is a vigorous proponent of the fracking industry, even though it has not been proven to be a safe way of extracting energy.

Hydraulic fracturing involves the use of millions of gallons of water mixed with sand and a lethal brew of toxic chemicals, including compounds with known carcinogenic or severe health effects such as benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene. The “fracking fluid” is injected deep underground through a bore hole at high pressure to break open fissures in the shale and release the gas or oil trapped in tiny pockets within the rock.

A single vertical well can tap into only a limited area of the shale bedrock immediately surrounding the bore hole. The tremendous increase in the production potential of hydrofracking comes from this combination of vertical and horizontal directional drilling. This technique allows the drill bit to be turned horizontally once it has reached the depth of the shale formation. Drilling can then extend significant distances along the target bedrock layer and thus allow the fracking fluid to be spread across a vastly greater area than by vertical drilling alone.

Once the rock is shattered, the resulting mixture of fracking fluid and natural gas or petroleum is brought back to the surface and the fuel materials separated and stored for shipment.

Contrary to industry statements that fracking is safe, evidence demonstrates that it poses significant dangers to the environment and human health. Much but not all of the mixture of gas/oil and fracking fluid is brought back to the surface during the extraction process. Furthermore, in some cases, the used fluid is re-injected into the well as a disposal method. Therefore, a potential source of contamination will remain in the ground indefinitely after the well has been closed.

photograph, taken on February 11 at Barton Moss, shows a truck entering the site carrying what appears to be radioactive material. These are Cesium-137, a gamma ray source with a half-life of 30 years, used to make rock density measurements, and Americium-241/Beryllium, a neutron source with a half-life of 432 years, used to detect liquids in the rock pores. These are the two most commonly used radioactive sources in well logging, and prolonged exposure to either could result in harm to humans.

Another major danger associated with fracking is the potential of earthquakes. Two earthquakes, of magnitude 1.5 and 2.2, hit the Blackpool area of the North West in 2011 after fracking had been carried out. Fracking was temporarily suspended in the UK and resumed after a government review decided the process was safe, if adequately monitored. But only this week, geologists in the United States conclusively linked earthquakes deep under Ohio’s Appalachian Mountains to fracking.

IGas began its testing last summer after signing a deal with Peel Holdings, owners of the nearby MediaCity and the Manchester Ship Canal, to search the land it owns in the North West for energy resources recoverable by fracking.

Oil services conglomerate Schlumberger was contracted by IGas to do the well logging. The company finished its exploratory drilling this month and is set to return to Barton Moss later this year after announcing that it had detected the gas in samples from its test well. The firm said it intends to map a 100-square-kilometre area of the North West to determine where else to drill for shale gas.

The protests against fracking at Barton Moss began last November with a camp set up on the road nearby the site. Peel Holdings quickly moved to evict the camp. They asked Manchester Civil Justice Centre for possession of the camp, and an order was granted by Judge Mark Pelling QC.

The protesters argued that the firm did not own the land where the camp is and had no right to evict them. The same month, lawyers for the protesters won a legal bid to prevent their eviction and have been granted a full hearing to decide if there are grounds for the right to appeal eviction. On July 16, the Court of Appeal will hear the case.

On March 9, more than 1,000 protesters marched in nearby Manchester city centre against the drilling at Barton Moss.

Throughout their time at the camp, protesters were subjected to a massive police presence costing more than £700,000, with numerous cases of police brutality alleged. In January, protester Sean O’Donnell suffered multiple injuries, including a broken metatarsal and suspected broken ribs, claiming he was thrown to the ground by police.

In February, a 15-year-old girl was arrested and subsequently held for six hours by police without being allowed access to her mother. She was only at the site because she was researching a geography project on fracking.

On March 17, another protester, Vanda Gillett, a mother of five, was alsoviolently arrested. She accused the police of assaulting her and acting like “a pack of wolves.”

In order to carry out over 100 arrests, Greater Manchester Police (GMP) claimed that the camp was on a public highway and charged many with obstructing it or obstructing a police officer. This anti-democratic procedure was overruled by a judge at Manchester Magistrates Court on February 12, who said that the camp was on a public footpath and not a public highway.

The authoritarian Terrorism Act 2000 was also used as a pretext by GMP to raid the camp on January 6. Police searched it under Section 43 of the Act, claiming they were acting in response to a flare fired from the camp at a police helicopter. The search did not produce any evidence related to a flare. Section 43 power does not require a warrant and can only be used only when a police officer ”reasonably suspects” a person might be a terrorist.

The use of anti-terror legislation to target peaceful protesters is confirmation that such measures are on the statute books primarily to silence any and all dissent against the policies of the government and their big business allies.

The SEP warns against placing any confidence in the Green Party to counter such assaults.

Last week, Green MP Caroline Lucas and four others were cleared of obstructing a public highway during an anti-fracking protest outside energy company Cuadrilla’s site in West Sussex last August.

Lucas claimed that her party would not cease campaigning until “our world is on the path to a clean energy future.” But while condemning fracking, the Greens make no such protests against the inexorable drive to war by the major capitalist powers that has been exposed in their provocations against Russia in Ukraine.

Indeed, in countries such as Germany where the Greens have significant political influence, they are beating the drums for militarism. Former Green foreign minister Joschka Fischer has demanded openly that the European Union adopt an aggressive imperialist foreign policy, indifferent to the fact that nothing poses a more immediate and catastrophic disaster for humanity and the planet than a third world war with nuclear weapons.

The development of a democratically decided “clean energy future” cannot be conceived of in isolation from the development of the international class struggle against capitalism.

The Socialist Equality Party opposes the uncontrolled application of fracking by private corporations whose sole aim is the maximisation of profits at any cost.

While fracking technology may provide an important source of energy in the future, the question of whether it can be safely employed can only be determined by careful scientific research, divorced from considerations of private profit and based on human need and the protection of the environment.

We call on those who agree with this approach to support the campaign of the SEP/PSG, vote for our candidates and join the fight for a Socialist United States of Europe.

For further information visit: www.socialequality.org.uk

Will The Barton Blockade Happen Come September

Can we save this land from the horror of being fractured and poisened

By Colin Gong  (Please click link to go to original posts and comments and Facebook)

So the Ligas activity has pretty much abated for the time being and the dust has settled , and it is the last night on the moss for Olive and I  …. we are poised ready to lift our anchor in the morning and set sails back towards our ‘normal’ life.

Colin and Olive at Barton Moss (left and right) ... Image by Peter Yankowski

Colin and Olive at Barton Moss (left and right) … Image by Peter Yankowski

For the last 4 months our life has been pretty much spent on the moss so it has been home for us for this while , and we have done all we could see to do to defend it during our time here . It has been a pleasure and a privilege to stand with all you people here , locals and migrants alike .

With the easing of the intensity over these last days I have been assimilating and reviewing where things are now placed , in terms of the struggle to save this land from the horror of being fractured and poisoned .

All the signs we can read say that are igas are lining themselves up to return later in the year , and have their sights firmly set on doing what to me , and to many others , is simply unthinkable .

And sadly there are no signs visible that say Salford Council , our Government , the EA or the HSE are going to do anything other than be complicit with Igas in the crime of wilful ecocide .

So from where I am looking , right now the mosses and the communities around them are looking very very vunerable to the unthinkable – to having the living daylight fracked out of them .

Seeing this , I feel far from easy with leaving the area at this juncture… … but we have to go – the circumstances of life do not give us an option to stay.  To moderate my dis ease at having to leave , I air these questions for the thinkers and strategists of the campaign , which must surely be ongoing :

What is going to happen when they return?

In the light of all recent evidence it would be niave or foolish to think the Government or the Council or EA or HSE might suddenly start doing their job properly and protect the mosses and the communities around them ….

….so who or what is going to protect when the frackers return? …

We can be fairly confident that Peel and Igas between them will make sure that a camp of incoming migrants can not land so easily this time … and who knows how many of them will be in a position to return then anyway? – other campaigns , jobs , some even in prison?

So the main thrust of the next phase will need a LOT more local people to be stirred and ready to act… the numbers of active locals who are sufficiently aware of the nature of the threat to be willing to stand (or sit) on the B M Road in defence of the community has slowly but surely risen over the course of the last 5 months …
….but it is still so far sure of where it will need to be in 5 or 6 months time .

How many would it take anyway ? 500? , 1,000? , 3,000?

Will the threat of fracking mean enough , to enough local folk by then ? … will the rising awareness have arisen enough by then?  …. can we just sit back and hope/trust that will have happened by the time the frackers return? ….
or again , in the light of recent evidence , is that a naive and foolish way to go?

I have to say that if we were more ‘rooted’ here , and were set to be living here this year and next year and the one after , I don’t think I would be resting for more than a minute just now ….
….I would be calling together as a matter of urgency the biggest group of committed strategic thinkers I could muster …
… to ask the questions and brain-storm them , ‘how can enough local folk be sufficiently be informed and stirred so they are ready to step forwards to protect the community when the frackers return?’ ….

The Bentley Blockade is currently happening in Oz ….

And I think it may well come down to a point where NOTHING else is going to protect the Mosses and the nearby communities from the onslaught of this insanity , apart from the people of those communities themselves..

The BARTON BLOCKADE may well need to happen …

… and I don’t see it is going to happen out of nowhere … people get ready ….

Of course we will come if we possibly can .

Barton Moss and Fracking … Who Is Policing The Police and Why

Barton Moss and Fracking … Who Is Policing The Police and Why

Police violence has been a running theme in the anti-fracking protests at Barton Moss. Individual officers are acting with impunity. Is this a deliberate strategy to disrupt the protests on behalf of vested interests? David Cullen investigates …

… a deliberate strategy of eliminating, disrupting or suppressing the protests against fracking at Barton Moss, under which officers know that excessive or violent behaviour will be overlooked or even tacitly condoned.

On January 14th Dr. Steve Peers, a legal observer at the anti-fracking ‘protectors’ camp at Barton Moss, was filming three police officers arresting a protester.

Video he took shows one of the officers realising they were being filmed, walking up to Steve and pushing him backwards onto the floor.

Shortly afterwards another officer walked up to him and jostled him away from the arrest, pushing him down the road.

Now, this is where it gets strange …

This officer then started repeatedly asking if Steve had been drinking alcohol before aggressively asserting that he had and loudly claiming that Steve had admitted to doing so. Steve was then arrested for refusing to submit to breath test.

Steve does his legal observing with a video camera permanently mounted on a hard-hat that he wears, so it is inconceivable that the officer did not realise he was being filmed as he made this vindictive and wrongful arrest on a totally false charge.

This is the strangest part of the whole incident: why was the police officer not concerned that this brazen abuse of power was being caught on camera? Did he really have such confidence in his impunity?

Setting the scene

The anti-fracking camp runs along the verge of Barton Moss Road, which is used by trucks dropping off equipment at the iGas drilling site, often several times a day. Each time a truck arrives the protesters line up on the road, walking slowly in front of the trucks and their police escort.

The iGas site is currently home to a test drilling rig, but the expectation is that if the results of the test drilling are positive, iGas will try to extract shale gas from the rock formations below Barton Moss using the controversial method of fracking.

Fracking involves pumping water and chemicals into the rock at extremely high pressure in the hope that it will fracture and release the gas. It has been linked with earthquakes and water pollution.

Shale gas is also a carbon intensive fossil fuel, a resource which needs to remain unexploited if we are to have a reasonable chance of avoiding catastrophic climate change.

Many other examples of heavy-handed policing

The incident with Dr. Steve Peers is only one example of heavy-handed policing at Barton Moss. I might instead have described in detail the disabled man shoved into a ditch by police rushing to arrest a pregnant woman who was simply walking in the crowd.

Or perhaps the legal observer who suffered a broken eye socket during a particularly violent arrest which was caught on camera. Or the 15-year old girl on her first visit to the camp, who had been hoping to gather material for use in a school geography project, but instead was arrested while she was simply walking down Barton Moss Road.

There are numerous other examples caught on video, and presumably many more which were not.

Taken separately, these events might be easy to dismiss as the excesses of individual officers. But taken together, it seems that something more systematic is going on.

Indeed, the strategic behaviour of Greater Manchester Police (GMP) strongly suggests they are deploying a deliberate strategy of eliminating, disrupting or suppressing the protests against fracking at Barton Moss, under which officers know that excessive or violent behaviour will be overlooked or even tacitly condoned.

Elderly lady is dragged out of what is supposed to be a peaceful walk out of iGas vehicles at Barton Moss Protector Camp

Elderly lady is dragged out of what is supposed to be a peaceful walk out of iGas vehicles at Barton Moss Protector Camp

Vanda Gillett Peaceful Protector Beaten Several Times by GMP

Vanda Gillett Peaceful Protector Beaten Several Times by GMP

The road to Barton Moss – powerful people stand to get rich

Fracking is a policy without a democratic mandate. The coalition government was formed with a promise to be “the greenest government ever”, and fracking was not included in either Liberal Democrat or Conservative manifestos at the last election.

Despite this, fracking in the UK is now official government policy publicly championed by the prime minister, who called for a shale gas revolution, and by other senior ministers, including the chancellor.

number of individuals within or close to government stand to make a considerable amount of money as a result of this policy change, including the chancellor’s father in law.

Local opinion is overwhelmingly opposed to fracking, but Salford Council have granted a license at Barton Moss. Peel Holdings, who own the land at Barton Moss, as well as large areas of Salford and the North West, have long been criticised for wielding undue influence over Salford Council.

The council also indirectly own shares in iGas, the company who are drilling at the site, through the Greater Manchester Pension Fund.

This is the political context for the policing operation at Barton Moss, and GMP seem to have interpreted it as a license to suppress protest.

While some of the police tactics fit into a general trend towards more repressive policing of protest in the UK, misuse of the law as a tool to suppress dissent is considerably more flagrant than has been seen elsewhere.

Playing the ‘terrorism card’

On the 6th January, GMP raided the Barton Moss camp and searched it under Seection 43 of the Terrorism Act 2000. The raid was immediately press-released by GMP, who claimed they acted in response to a flare fired from the camp at a police helicopter.

The story spread, gaining much wider press coverage than most stories about Barton Moss, but the search failed to produce anyevidence related to the flare. During the search the police left sleeping bags and clothing outside tents in the rain and mud: potentially a serious risk to the wellbeing of people living outside in the middle of the wettest winter on record.

The Section 43 power does not require a warrant, but is supposed to be used only when a police officer “reasonably suspects” a person might be a terrorist. There are numerous video cameras in the vicinity of the camp, including a thermal imaging camera on the helicopter itself, which should have been able to see the heat signature and path of the flare.

After the search failed to find any evidence to link the camp to the flare, GMP were challenged to release any video evidence they have of the incident, but have not done so.

Policing by PR?

Even if GMP’s version of events is completely true, it is clear that they seized an opportunity to search the camp without a warrant and to generate negative press about the camp.

It’s a matter of record that the police often use the press not to inform the public, but to pursue their own agenda, even if this involves misleading the public or spreading false information.

The flare incident is reminiscent of police announcements of a cache of weapons discovered near the Climate Camp in Kingsnorth in 2008, or the oil slick on the A8 attributed to the Climate Camp in Edinburgh in 2010.

Whilst extensive coverage of the protests at Barton Moss can be found in the local press, particularly the Salford Star, a local community newspaper, the national press have undertaken only intermittent coverage. This makes ‘policing by PR’ all the more damaging.

A suspiciously low number of ‘incidents’? – here’s why

Furthermore, complaints figures seem to have been organised to make them useful within this strategy of policing by PR. For example – solicitor Simon Pook, when complaining about an officer who did not intervene when a car stuck somebody at the camp, was issued with an incident number for the complaint that was dated several weeks previously.

When he questioned this, he was told that all complaints relating to policing at the camp were grouped together as a single incident.

This is probably the reason for the suspiciously low number of complaints against the police quoted in a press-released public statement by Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of GMP.

Unlawful bail conditions

The police abusing their power to unilaterally set bail conditions is a recurring feature of the policing of protest in the UK. This power is only supposed to be used in limited circumstances, for example where it is necessary to prevent a further crime being committed or to stop the arrestee absconding.

Instead it seems that the police regard bail conditions as a way to gain an injunction without the hassle of having to make the legal case for one. They are used to intimidate or punish people exercising their right to protest, giving them nightly curfews or excluding them from entire geographic areas.

This use of bail conditions by the UK police was specifically criticised by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful protest in his 2013 report to the UN Human Rights Council.

Despite this warning, and disregarding existing case-law, GMP have routinely set excessive bail conditions for those arrested at Barton Moss, banning them from returning to the camp. This began with the first arrest in November 2013. Each subsequent arrest received near-identical bail conditions.

Bail itself is used as a form of punishment

Within days of the first arrest these bail conditions had been successfully challenged in the courts and replaced with unconditional bail. But GMP have ignored the fact that every time a court has scrutinised the bail conditions they have been overturned, continuing to hand out the same punitive bail conditions to all arrestees.

It isn’t possible to discern why GMP have continued to pursue a policy which contradicts existing case law, breaches human rights legislation and flies in the face of the recommendations of a UN Special Rapporteur.

When I asked them what guidance was being used in setting bail conditions they would not give specifics. However, it seems likely that part of the intention was to intimidate, disrupt and interfere with people’s right to protest.

It has also allowed GMP to quote inflated and misleading numbers of arrests in their public statements. At the time of writing more than one arrest in every ten was for breach of bail conditions: bail conditions which should never have been set in the first place.

While GMP have publicly complained about the cost of their policing operation at Barton Moss, citing the number of arrests, their public statements have not mentioned the cost to the taxpayer of the police work, detention, court time and lawyers generated by their refusal to comply with the rule of law when setting bail conditions.

Knowingly bringing false charges

Questions also remain over the offences used to charge people at Barton Moss. Until recently, all those arrested in connection with stopping or slowing the trucks on Barton Moss Lane were charged with obstruction of the highway.

This seemed a little counter-intuitive, as the lane is a public footpath on a private road, not a public highway. GMP knew this: it formed part of their defence in a civil case brought against them by one of the protesters, and officers were also photographed in early January taking away footpath signs from the lane.

After the first arrest in November it was made clear within a matter of days that those charged with obstruction of the highway would use the defence that the lane was not a public highway, and could well be acquitted.

Nonetheless, GMP continued to arrest and charge people with the same offence for the next three months. When the inevitable ruling came on 13th February that the lane was not a highway, this meant that around 50 individuals had been wrongfully arrested and had their cases dismissed.

No more Mr Nice Guy

After a day where the protesters were allowed to block trucks from accessing the drilling site, the police returned and delivered what appears to have been a dose of retributory violence.

One woman was hospitalised after being apparently strangled and dragged through mud in handcuffs, and the police were witnessed hitting out, attacking photographers and preventing the access of legal observers.

Arrests on that day and subsequently have been made for aggravated trespass, rather than obstruction of the highway.

As the offense of aggravated trespass has been available to the police throughout, the question arises of why they persisted in arresting people for obstruction of the highway for three months when there was a good chance they would be acquitted.

Aggravated trespass carries a higher penalty and would almost certainly have been easier to prove given the situation at Barton Moss Lane, so why didn’t the police use it?

Obstructing legal representation

One key difference between the two charges is that individuals accused of obstructing the highway are not eligible for legal aid to fight the charge.

Without legal work being taken on pro bono by local solicitor Simon Pook and barrister Richard Brigden, it is likely that the wrongful arrests for obstructing the highway could have resulted in successful prosecutions, and that unlawful police bail conditions would almost certainly have been unchallenged – a miscarriage of justice effecting over 60 people.

If it seems unthinkable that GMP would arrest people for a certain offense in order to make it more difficult for them to access legal representation, note this.

The solicitors firm representing most of the arrestees has had several clients report police behaviour intended to deny them their fundamental legal rights. On one occasion a defendant was simply told that their chosen solicitor’s firm were “too busy” – and although a member of the firm was actually present in the same police station they were not consulted on the matter.

On another occasion Simon Pook was prevented from visiting a client in hospital by a police officer who pushed him and told him to “fuck off”.

In the absence of a more plausible explanation, the obvious conclusion is that GMP deliberately set out to suppress the dissent at Barton Moss by arresting numerous individuals on a bogus charge where they were not eligible for legal aid and presenting them with unlawful bail conditions which interfered with their right to protest.

Far from being “stuck in the middle” as claimed by Chief ConstablePeter Fahy, GMP has treated the law as just another tool which should be utilised with maximum leverage to achieve the desired outcome – the suppression of dissent at Barton Moss.

Policing in the absence of democracy

Almost all of the elected representatives which are supposed to hold GMP to account are supportive of fracking at Barton Moss, and have so far failed to provide any meaningful oversight.

The elected police commissioner for Greater Manchester, Tony Lloyd (who draws a salary of £100,000 and commands a staff of 40), was silent over the first 2 months of the protests and police violence, only issuing a mild statement of concern in early February.

Following recent events he has set up an ‘independent panel’ to investigate the protests, but it remains to be seen whether the panel can seriously act as a check on the actions of GMP.

Although one local MP has voiced concerns about the policing operation, not a single Salford city councillor has made any public statement on the issue, nor has the elected mayor. Meanwhile, the prime minister has derided opponents of fracking, accusing them of “religious” irrationality.

A growing gap between the rulers, and the ruled

The policing at Barton Moss needs to be understood in the light of this discrepancy between the support of elected representatives and the widespread opposition of local people.

When those in power feel they are entitled to decide policy without consulting people who are likely to be affected, it is hardly surprising that any dissent by those people will be regarded as illegitimate. It is only a small step from there to enforcing contentious policy using violence, and deploying the law as a tool to suppress dissent.

Just as the most obvious explanation for the violence used by individual officers is that they believe they have tacit approval of their superiors and expect to be protected by them, the most obvious explanation for the tactics and strategy that GMP are pursuing is that they believe they have tacit approval and expect to be protected by their political masters.

And it’s getting worse

The indications are that police violence at Barton Moss has got worseover the last few weeks, rather than better. There are fears that if Peel Holdings are successful in their application for an eviction order for the camp, GMP may take the opportunity to be even more brutal.

Barton Moss is an advanced case of what policing looks like when those in power work on behalf of private and corporate interests, rather than the people they are supposed to be serving. We need to pay attention.

Unless we engage in wholesale reform of our governing structures and the police, this is something we are going to be seeing a lot more of in the future.


Source:   http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/2347997/barton_moss_who_is_policing_greater_manchester_police.html

David Cullen lives in Manchester. His day job is working as a researcher for an arms control NGO, but he is also involved in various other environmental and social justice campaigns.

This article was originally published by Open Democracy / Open Security.

See also: Greater Manchester groups call for reisgnation of Tony Lloyd Police Commissioner in the Salford Star.

 

 

FURY AS SALFORD MAYOR REFUSES FRACKING DEBATE

From The Salford Star

SALFORD MAYOR `HIDES BEHIND PROCESSES’ TO AVOID FRACKING ISSUE

“Ian Stewart is a joke, a jellyfish…he’s got no backbone” Steph, Ordsall

“Democracy? They don’t know the meaning of the word” Jean, Irlam

Salford City Mayor, Ian Stewart and his Cabinet this morning refused to debate the issue of fracking, after a petition with three thousand signatures was handed over condemning the controversial gas extraction process.

After a five minute speech by the petitioner, Stewart said there would be“no further debate”. It left campaigners – half of whom weren’t allowed into the meeting – horrified… “I get the feeling that they are hiding behind processes” said petitioner Ali Abbas from Manchester Friends of the Earth.

SALFORD MAYOR `HIDES BEHIND PROCESSES' TO AVOID FRACKING ISSUE "Ian Stewart is a joke, a jellyfish…he's got no backbone" Steph, Ordsall "Democracy? They don't know the meaning of the word" Jean, Irlam

SALFORD MAYOR `HIDES BEHIND PROCESSES’ TO AVOID FRACKING ISSUE
“Ian Stewart is a joke, a jellyfish…he’s got no backbone” Steph, Ordsall
“Democracy? They don’t know the meaning of the word” Jean, Irlam

“Your rights were taken away, you weren’t allowed to speak, it was a case of just sitting there for five minutes. There was no engagement with the Mayor or anyone, it was ridiculous.” Kevin, Irlam

Around fifty anti-fracking campaigners protested outside Salford Civic Centre this morning, surrounded by Salford Council’s over-indulgent security measures.

Police kept a watchful eye from inside and outside the building as mothers holding babies and pensioners sang anti-fracking songs, while a memo had gone around to all staff telling them that `additional security will be in place’ and asking them to `remain vigilant at this time’

When the Council Cabinet meeting got underway at 10am, less than half the campaigners who had stood outside the Civic Centre for almost an hour were allowed in, the Salford Mayor, Ian Stewart, citing `health and safety reasons’.

Campaigners had hoped that the Council would be forced, at last, to hold an open discussion on fracking, triggered by over three thousand people signing a petitionopposing the controversial shale gas extraction process. Instead, what they got was yet more silence.

Ali Abbas, on behalf of Manchester Friends of the Earth, which had launched the petition, was allowed to address councillors for five minutes – but Stewart made it clear before the meeting started that “no member of the public will be allowed to speak, apart from the petitioner”.

Ali made a passionate speech, challenging claims made by the fracking industry that shale gas would bring down prices, create jobs, tackle climate change and help national security.

He added that IGas – the company doing the exploratory drilling at Barton Moss – had originally explicitly stated that it was looking for coal bed methane gas when its intention, now admitted, was to look for shale gas…

“If you can’t trust IGas in the exploratory phase then how can you trust them in the future?” he asked, calling on Salford Council to pass a motion against shale gas exploration.

Ali handed over the petition to Assistant Mayor for Planning, Derek Antrobus, and then Ian Stewart closed that section of the meeting.

`Aren’t you going to respond?’ shouted someone from the public seating… “We are governed by the formal rules of the Council – there will be no debate” said Stewart “We will be called to make a decision and would exclude ourselves from being involved”. He then asked people to leave, much to the fury of those present.

“They’re useless. Democracy? They don’t know the meaning of the word” said Jean Caruthers from Irlam.

“At least fifty of us have come down today to hear the Council debate fracking, hear their answers and hear where they are up to with it…because since Barton Moss started not one of Salford councillor has been down there or spoken out” said Darren Nesbitt “Instead, we’ve heard a statement being read out and then asked to leave with no discussion whatsoever.

“How is the public being involved?” he asked “The Mayor said that the Council is governed by its rules. No! The Council should be governed by the people.”

And Kevin Done from Irlam added “It was pointless coming down, your rights were taken away, you weren’t allowed to speak, it was a case of just sitting there for five minutes. There was no engagement with the Mayor or anyone, it was ridiculous.”

Steph, from Ordsall, helped to get people to sign the petition, spending many hours in the street collecting signatures…

“All the time and effort we went to, explaining to people what fracking is all about, and now it’s just been chucked in the recycle bin” she fumed “It’s an absolute joke. I’m furious with this Council. If this is democracy I don’t want it. I don’t think it is democracy, it’s their version of democracy, and I just want them out. Ian Stewart is a joke, a jellyfish, he’s got no backbone.”

Others were convinced that the Mayor and his Assistant Mayors were using procedures to avoid discussing the fracking issue…

“It’s using procedural technicalities to avoid debate just before an election” said Martin Burke, a Green Party election candidate “Not all members of the Labour party are subject to the legal constraints of Labour councillors who might sit on the planning committee. Someone from that party could engage in the debate but they are avoiding it because it would be very unpopular just before the election.”

And Colin Gong, from the Barton Moss Community Protection Camp added… “We need to check that they are following due process because I was under the very clear understanding that we would get to hear an hour long debate by the Council on fracking. Instead we got a pre-prepared statement from our side and zero, silence from the Council…”

Ali Abbas, who handed over the petition, was equally seething…

“It was really important that we got a chance to address councillors…what was disappointing was that we didn’t get a chance to have a debate on the issue and that’s got to happen” he said “People expect councillors to come out and say very clearly where they stand on fracking. They have the power to put in place a motion which presumes against development of shale gas extraction in the Barton Moss area and in Salford as a whole. So, from that point of view this is the start of the process.

“I get the feeling that they are hiding behind processes” he concluded “It’s all very well having processes like that, but what you want is a forum for debate. We need to have a forum, have that debate and come up with solutions that are right for Salford.”

This afternoon, a press release from Manchester Friends of the Earth, included a statement from actress and Salford resident Maxine Peake calling for Salford Council to get off its fracking knees…

“It is of utmost importance that we prevent fracking from becoming a reality in this country” she said “We must stop the Goverment’s bribing of local authorities into participating in this disastrous exercise. No to Fracking! Stand up Salford before it’s too late…”

 

Don’t Let Fear Stop You

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By Pax Malachi
(Written with Barton Moss Protection Camp in mind but applicable to life in general)

FEAR IS YOUR ENEMY! Its often posted on sites dealing with protest/protection that people would like to help and get involved but are afraid to do so. In fact anything you do in life generally that involves risk or uncertainty can leave you feeling uneasy and unwilling to take the next step. That feeling is completely understandable, we have safeguards built into us from birth such as a “fear of heights” it can be said that a fear of heights is a healthy or at least useful fear as it may cause us to step back from the edge and indeed the danger thereby preserving and protecting our lives. 

That said there is a second kind of fear, a somewhat less healthy fear that is indoctrinated into us from birth. From the cradle to the grave we are instilled with a myriad of fear based programming to keep us in line with “society” and to control us. Fear comes in many forms and is often unhealthy. The fear of failure for one, we are taught that success is the way forward and failure is unacceptable on any level. I would contest this as many of the lessons I have learned in life have been directly from my failings, and these failings gave me a chance to understand and deal better with given situations and indeed to make better choices the second time around built upon my experience of failure, after all how are we supposed to learn if we don’t error occasionally? Its human to miss the mark every so often and the lessons emanating from that experience are invaluable to us in future choices.

We are taught at school what to believe, what is acceptable and indeed how to behave properly…But by who’s reckoning? Just because something is generally accepted as being the norm it does not define it as the best option or even a valid option in some cases. But it is the option that will fit in with the society in which we interact daily thereby enabling us to communicate with fellow programmed human beings. Schooling is unquestionably accepted and we are told what to think rather than how to think, intelligence is not the retention of information as you would revise and memorise for a test or exam, intelligence is the application of information in order to join the dots and create/manifest/enable life to move forward. There are many advised scholars who can quite happily stand on the shoulders of geniuses and quote rhyme and verse the intricacies and principles of very complicated theory, but cannot apply that information in a practical way…..We’ve all met the person who can give lecture of numerous theories and practices but has no common sense……

So to that end we are all victims of our programming and we react accordingly to that program and apply it daily in our lives. Whether it is a fear of not being accepted, a fear of being misunderstood, a fear of being overly sensitive, a fear of being forthright in our beliefs…the list really is endless and the baggage we carry is extensive. We are all trying our hardest to get on in society and to be accepted. This can cause conflict with our belief system as some of us can see the bigger picture, can see outside the box and can apply ourselves to the matter in hand in a practical and productive way….but to do that we have to stand forward, we have to step out of our programming, into the spotlight…and that can be uncomfortable and leave us in a position to be judged and ridiculed by family, friends and colleagues.

But in reality what choice do we have? Passion wells up inside of me when I see injustice, cruelty, greed, hatred, oppression….I cant fight it…Its inherent and its dominant…its who I am and its how I work, it is the very centre of my being and it comes at a price amongst my friends and my social acceptance. I have friends so tied into the societal system, so tied into the monetary system, so tied into the belief system that they now appear alien to me and to try and engage them is infuriating as cognitive dissonance abounds amongst them. They actually believe the way we behave and are treated is normal and acceptable. They actually believe there is nothing they can do, that they are powerless and cannot influence change, and in many ways they are far more dangerous to the welfare of the planet than those hell bent on destroying it, apathy is abundant amongst the masses and those who dare to step out into the light are condemned, not only by the establishment but by their surrounding social circle, a form of self policing, and inevitably the expense is shouldered not by the individual but by us all collectively as a species, what we allow will become!

So we have a choice, we can let things continue and accept our lot, that lot being poverty, control and submission to briefly touch upon the long list. Or we can shed our fear because its not real, its just a program that we run, its a control mechanism used to subdue us and keep us docile!

“Be the change you want to see in the world!”

With regards to Barton Moss Protection Camp, making a difference does not mean walking the front line under constant threat of arrest, its not for everyone to run the gauntlet, but that’s only part of the struggle. There are a multitude of avenues to explore without putting yourself in the firing line. Yes a quick glance over youtube will find arrest footage, often violent, often not pleasant to watch and often frightening………But this is real life! We aren’t appearing in some lame soap opera here, we are fighting for our very survival, not only on the front lines at Barton moss but at every point of oppression and control and in every corner of the world. The planet is on fire with change at the moment and we need to pull together to drive that change. WE DONT HAVE A CHOICE! Nobody wants to put themselves in a position of fear and danger, but its not a choice anymore, apathy and disregard is no longer an option! This is way beyond the 11th hour, we are all part of the transition team and we must all stand shoulder to shoulder to PEACEFULLY bring about the change we want to see in the world!

So drop the shackles and get onboard, not only at Barton Moss but everywhere, change is all around us all the time and we must rise above the fear and embrace it! Start off lightly by visiting the Moss and meeting people at the camp, no-one will twist your arm and make you do anything. There are many many safe places to be when the trucks come in where you will have zero chance of being arrested, but by the very nature of you being there you are showing your support. Make banners, bring food, participate in online debates, Facebook, Twitter, talk to your friends about fracking, research and inform……..become a vehicle for change and stop looking over your shoulder, your strength will lie in your honesty and your intent…. the truth is coming and the truth will set you free! You are not a slave, you are not a number and you are not alone!!!!!!